Opening night

NILES – The Mahoning Valley Scrappers could hardly buy a run Tuesday night in their 2014 home opener against the Auburn Doubledays at Eastwood Field.

The Scrappers fell to the Doubledays 2-1 and managed one hit. Their cold bats couldn’t get hot and generate any offense past the third inning.

“We’re not hitting,” Scrappers manager Ted Kubiak said. “We just need to hit. You can’t do much with one hit.”

The Scrappers (2-3) did not do much of anything with one hit. In the second inning, second baseman Ordomar Valdez made it to second with a gapper to left and came across to score on a wild pitch two pitches later. Other than that, the Scrappers couldn’t get anything going offensively despite a solid collaborative pitching effort.

“I don’t know if they’re pressing, we’ve had enough work, they’ve been playing a long time,” Kubiak said. “I know some guys once the season starts get a little nervous, and the other team’s in the same boat. We’re all struggling together. (Auburn) had two runs, they didn’t blast the ball either despite the fact that they had eight hits.”

Even though the Scrappers couldn’t get the job done from behind the plate, their pitchers gave the coaching staff something to hang their hats on.

“The new guys came in and threw strikes and that’s all we can ask for,” Kubiak said.

Reliever Dominic DeMasi, who was drafted in the 31st round of the 2014 MLB Draft, came on in the eighth inning and after the first two batters reached base on consecutive hits, he struck out the next two.

“DeMasi really beared down and made some quality pitches,” Kubiak said.

DeMasi ran into more trouble, though, when he loaded the bases by intentionally walking Auburn No. 3 hitter Jose Marmolejos. The intentional walk seemed questionable because DeMasi had two outs, but Scrappers pitching coach Greg Hibbard said there was a method to the madness.

“We kind of rolled the dice there with two outs and the guy that was on deck, he was hitting like 0.90, so we just played the odds there and put a right-hander up to the plate,” Hibbard said.

The walk came back to bite the Scrappers as DeMasi walked in the game-winning run on four straight pitches.

“The walk that he had the umpire kind of squeezed him on the second pitch,” Kubiak said. “My catcher came in and said the umpire blatantly missed the strike and it kind of took him out of his game a little bit.”

DeMasi bounced back and worked out of the jam. He struck out the next batter to end the inning with the bases loaded and minimal damage done.

“Demasi had good stuff – that’s the reason I walked the guy because he was getting the ball over the plate. I don’t like to do that with young guys because what can happen happened, but the third-hole hitter had a good swing, he looked good at the plate, and I just didn’t trust him.”

DeMasi was credited with the loss, but his first outing is definitely something the Scrappers can build on.

“I like his demeanor on the mound, very poised,” Hibbard said. “He didn’t shy away from the strike zone and kept throwing strikes and once he got ahead, he put a few guys away, so no worries whatsoever with him.”

As for the Scrappers’ hitting woes, Kubiak said the team just needs to work out of its offensive funk, a phase many minor leaguers go through at the beginning of the season.

“I honestly think it’s like a month before these guys get into a groove,” Kubiak said. “Wish I could give you an answer about when the hitting’s going to start because then I’d stay out of here until then.”

The Scrappers resume their first homestand of the season today against Auburn at 7:05 at Eastwood Field.